3 Tools and Smart Tactics to Understand Your Audience
How well do you know those who are buying from you?
If you’ve answered anything but “not as well as I should,” I’m calling bullshit.
The truth is you can never have a good enough understanding of your prospects. Their wants, needs and preferences should always be your top priority.
Many CROs focus intently on the small details. Whether a red button with black text converts better than green with red. If font weight draws the eye and increases conversions or whether pop ups or squeeze pages are better for growing your list.
It’s a never-ending battle to try to squeeze that extra 0.01% conversion, and it’s the way most CROs earn that consultation pay check.
So what if I said that it was all pointless? The color of your buttons doesn’t matter. No one cares about the thickness of your text. You’re wasting your time split testing your squeeze page.
No, there’s something far more important you need to be focusing on.
Obviously I don’t mean that optimizing for conversions is a waste of time, we all know that button design is important What I am saying is that if you don’t take the vital first step for better conversions, the color of your buttons and any other little tweaks you make are pretty much useless.
Let’s stop for a minute and think about the golden rule of copywriting…
It’s not “Be creative.”
It’s not “Be witty.”
It’s not even “Be super persuasive.”
All of these areas are important, yes, but being able to implement them effectively depends on the golden rule: Know your audience.
I’m not just talking the basics of names, email addresses and locations. You need to know their likes, dislikes, what sort of content they enjoy and the products they use. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re not going to have much luck when it comes to selling to them.
You need a clear understanding of your audience so you can clearly identify where their needs overlap with what you’re offering. Without this knowledge, you could end up trying to sell kindergarten services to seniors, or rogaine to adolescent females (I pray there’s no market there).
Understanding your audience is the first and most important aspect of gaining higher conversions.
With that in mind, here’s a quick little guide to how you can get a better understanding of the age, gender, interests and opinions of your audience so you can better tailor your marketing and products to attract the right kind of customers.
The first area we’re going to take a look at is the age-old gem of review mining. It’s a method whose efficiency has been known for decades and was once carried out through user surveys and questionnaires.
Of course you can still go the way of surveys if you want—there are plenty of great services like Survey Monkey and Google Consumer Surveys to help you out—but we’re not interested in what your customers will say to your face. We want to know what they’re going to say to other existing and potential customers.
Thanks to review sites like Yelp and independent retailers like Amazon, it’s never been easier to check out what your customers really think of the product you’re offering and its competitors.
Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers has written not one, but two incredible articles on review mining which are definitely worth your time. Using this method, she not only managed to get a better understanding of her audience but also managed to completely lift a new headline from a review which resulted in a >400% rise in CTR!
The short version for effective review mining is to sift through as many reviews as possible for your own product and those related to it to find common themes, both positive and negative.
Whilst going through the reviews you’ll want to record the highest recurring opinions in three core areas:
- Memorable phrases
- What people want
- What people loathe
Once you’ve got your table, it’s time to further reduce the options into only the most frequent and shared opinions. By grouping together similar opinions and boiling them down to simpler overviews, you’ll have a great starting point for creating some killer customer personas based solely on desires.
As long as you’re exceeding certain traffic thresholds, Google Analytics provides some awesome reports about the kind folk who visit your site.
The problem with Analytics is that it can be quite complicated. The sheer scope of information provided leaves many chasing their own tail and not making any progress in understanding what’s going wrong.
I’d love to give a huge overview of how amazing Google Analytics can be, but I’m going to focus on what I believe to be the most important areas for a good overview of your audience. You can of course build on this information withadvanced segments and custom dashboards to monitor specifics, but that’s a story for another day.
Gender and Age
Who makes up the main portion of your site visitors? Is 80% of your traffic made up of 18–24 year old females, or have you attracted the 55–64-year-old male market? You wouldn’t market to these two demographics in the same way, would you? Please tell me you wouldn’t!
I’m taking a risk and making an assumption that most readers run websites and businesses aimed at the English-speaking market. Whilst the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand all share a common language, there are a number of different cultural aspects to take into consideration.
Copy that works well in converting in one country may not have the best effect overseas. It’s worth knowing where your primary purchasers are located so you know how best to customize your copy.
This is a great feature that helps round off the general image you’ll have of your audience. Generally speaking, you want to focus on Affinity Categories and In-Market Segments.
Affinity Categories are useful in reaching new prospects to make them aware of your brand. They’re broad categories like TV Lovers or Technophiles. These are the kind of prospects who would be at the start of your funnel.
In-Market Categories are a little more specific and often include people who are focusing on a specific product or service. These folk are closer to the end of your funnel and may be ready to purchase.
If you use these insights with your PPC advertising plan, you’ll be able to better customize your advert copy to appeal to the right demographic or, for content creators, you’ll know what content your users want to see.
Acquisition > Referral Traffic
Finally I like to look into the primary sources of referral traffic. Partly because I want to know who’s mentioning the site (gotta feed that ego!), partly because it tells me a lot about the audience.
If someone is referring a lot of traffic it’s a safe bet that they’re doing something right. They’re not only attracting high traffic themselves, but they’ve also managed to get that audience to trust them.
Listening to a referral is a sign of trust. You wouldn’t recommend a friend for a job if you didn’t think they were capable, and am employer would’t listen to your recommendation if they didn’t trust you. If someone is referring their traffic to you they’ve noticed something worthwhile and their traffic trusts their judgement.
I’ll backtrack to the referral source and pick apart their site to try to discern what it is that our shared audience admires.
At this stage, you should have a strong image of your customer personas. Honestly speaking, review mining and analytics data might be enough for you to create some pretty accurate customer personae, I know of some who do it off analytics alone.
Instead of calling it a day and giving ourselves a pat on the back, let’s try to flesh out the last few parts of our audience with a little social media data.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone not on social media nowadays. It seems that every man and his dog has an account! Thankfully that’s what makes it such a great place for a little audience research.
We’re going to take a look at Twitter and Facebook, as they both have their own analytics services, which can help gain some valuable insights.
The Twitter Analytics dashboard is beautiful. Behind this beautiful facade lie the details of your followers and their interests.
There are some great reports and insights under the Home, Tweets, Twitter Cardsand Tools tabs that are definitely worth checking out but for now we’re interested in the Followers tab.
Ignore the lovely chart that details your follower growth and scroll down until you see something resembling the screen above.
On the left you’ll notice a list of unique and top interests whilst on the right you’ll see gender and other influencers with location displayed in the middle.
Personally I prefer to use the data from Google for devising future plans; however, it’s still worth checking to see how well Twitter’s data overlaps.
Most will see very similar data across the two platforms, but if there is a difference, you’ll want to amend your Twitter activities accordingly.
Let’s say a Google report places most of your site visitors in the US, while your primary Twitter following is in the UK. Instead of tweeting links to a US optimized landing page, you’d have better results sending out more links for a UK audience. The same fundamental approach applies for differing interests across the platforms.
After you’ve played around a little with what you’re sending out, it’s time to see how it’s resonating with your audience.
Under the Tweets tab you’ll find reports on how successful your tweets have been.
Key metrics to measure are obviously impressions and conversions and, if you’re paying for advertising on Twitter, how successful the campaign as been.
Unfortunately Twitter Analytics doesn’t provide enough in the way of comparisons or the ability to drill down deeper into the demographics data. Whilst I still believe it’s an incredibly useful service, I’d love to see these additions made in the near future. For the time being we’ll have to create our own tables to compare and take a more generalized approach.
No prizes for guessing what Facebook Insights does!
Whilst the primary service is the same as Twitter and Google Analytics, the difference lies in how the data is collected. You’re not only able to check the personal data that Facebook users provide (both your own fans and Facebook wide), but can also check information collated from different national data collection agencies.
This awesome collection of data gives you a far better insight into the best area to spend your budget.
In my opinion, Facebook Insights is a far more comprehensive and easier to navigate platform than Twitter analytics. You’ll likely end up using Insights in the same way as Twitter Analytics by comparing data to your Google Analytics reports. However, the increased user functionality will make it far easier to focus in on different segments and highlight any areas where your Facebook audience differs to that for your main site.
Above is my personal favorite option: to see when your fans are online. It’s a relatively minor service, but knowing the top engagement times for your audience is something that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Once you’ve gathered, sorted and analyzed your audience data, you need tosegment and customize your copy.
Whilst every member of your audience will likely be interested in a common theme, they’re vastly different people. No one likes to be treated as a simple member of a huge demographic. We’re all individuals and want to be treated as such.
Let’s imagine you’re running a digital marketing site. You’re going to have younger audience members who need to build their foundation knowledge as well as more experienced marketers who need top-level advice and services.
It’s not just about age and experience either. Your umbrella topic might be digital marketing and your primary focus conversion optimization, but you’ll have some people who are looking for tips on email sequences, some who need an SEO consultation and perhaps some who are looking for social media management tools.
Sure you can take the well-trodden path of only pandering to the needs of your primary demographic; many businesses have found success through doing so. However, if you can segment your audience and create copy for each segment, you’ll see an overall increase in conversions across the board instead of seeing a good increase in one area.
So how deep are you willing to go in your quest to understand your audience? Are you a Google-Analytics-only marketer or do you take your major audience-gathering platforms into consideration? Perhaps you’re one of the few who prefers to rely on your gut feeling over any research.